The below subjective impressions are made with IEMs including FiiO FA7/ FA1, Final E4000/5000, Er4b, and more, 2 days of burnt in are done with earphones attached to the 4.4mm connector.
I am mainly testing under a balanced connection for optimized performance and using the default Short delay Sharp Roll-Off digital filter on high gain. Higher resolution /well-mastered tracks with All to DSD mode sounds the best for me on the M11 but it may consume a lot more power than without the function turned on.
The tuning approach on the M11 focuses on the mid-range. The bass is meaty and soft, the vocal is swift/not grainy and the treble is fairly extended. I would call it a safe tuning and I prefer pairing with multi-driver IEMs that have stronger bass textures and lighter impacts.
The bass bleeds into the sub-bass and I am eq-ing down some frequencies in the lows to reveal the sub-bass. The in-app EQ on FiiO’s music app could be handy but with strong hardware, you can enjoy advanced EQ tweaks that require more system power say Viper, to give the low end more power and the dynamics more texture that will boost the overall resolution.
Balanced and Unbalanced
All outputs have no noticeable background noise tested with a silent track. Switching from 3.5 (with 2.5 to 3.5 convertor used) to the balanced connection you will notice the treble being tamed, there is better headroom and resolution as well.
Obviously there is more power and quality with the balanced connection and comparatively, the 3.5mm port sounds more aggressive in the bass region and comes with brighter mid-treble frequencies.
I recommend using the balanced connection for the best quality and the 3.5 will still be useful as a backup. You could also link up to other speakers/ DACs with SPDIF out from the 3.5 socket.
Amping with Oriolus BA300s
The BA300s is designed to boost output power for ZX300’s 4.4mm connections, adding more punches to the output and tube coloration that renders the vocal part swifter.
With a FiiO FA7 the combo it sounds relaxing with Jazz music as the BA300s touches up the treble and give more control to the bass impact. The mid-bass is noticeably forward and intimate. You will notice the soft bass being amplified and you will get much more textured bass from the combo by tweaking the output with the M11’s apps equalizer, for example, Viper.
Synergy with IEMs
The output impedance on the M11’s 3.5 connection is <1 at 32Ω and on 2.5/4.4mm balanced connection, it is <2 on a 32Ω load. There is good synergy with cleaner sounding multiple drivers BA iems that are tuned more balanced in response and fast on the low-end.
On larger diameter dynamic IEMs you will get softer bass, quite engaging but maybe boomy or without enough bass impact.
With FiiO’s FA1 there is a good balance with the M11. You will hear some roll-off at both ends but the vocal part stands out nicely.
With the FA7 the pairing further strengthens the texture and gives you more openness in the treble. If you like dark voices and slow, relaxing music the FA7 and M11 combo may be a good pairing and comparatively FA1 will sound more fun and linear in response.
Final E4000/ 5000
I find the E4000 pairing a bit too bassy for my music and the brighter E5000 has better synergy with the M11. Featuring a small diameter dynamic driver and a special chamber design behind the driver, the E5000 sounds dynamic and punchy along with some sparkle in the treble.
The ER4b is always one of my reference IEM. With the 3.5mm connection on the M11, I can feel the bass being elevated but it noise free and roll offs aren’t too noticeable.
The 3.5mm has enough power to drive the ER4b to a fairly engaging level so the performance is satisfactory for the price and comfortable to listen to. However, a flatter response could make it sound more natural and opened up.
Tuning down the bass makes it more resolving for my music preferences for the ER4b as well and in the end, I am switching back to other balanced IEMs for a more balanced performance.
Although the M11 is in the M series, it looks like a premium version of the X5iii and replaces its product positioning and upgrades a lot of the functions. You will notice how similar the designs and features are yet the M11 complete everything the X5iii lacks. You get an extra 2GB ram, better noise control, a much larger screen, higher Bluetooth 4.2 standard, and extended battery life.
The M11 has a comfortable tuning focusing on the midrange alike theX5iii, sound quality for both devices are similar especially on a balanced connection. On 3.5mm X5iii is more powerful and brighter whilst the M11 has its bass elevated and treble touched up.
The resolution on both devices in balanced mode is similar. The M11 has a more mid-bass/ vocal forwarded tuning, pops and guitars sound dynamic and smoother but with most IEMs I hope there could be more sub-bass presence for better resolution.
The M11 is doubtlessly a great upgrade with all the latest hardware, now you could practically watch shows online on a bigger screen and being able to read the subtitles. Tuning works great with youtube videos, games also streaming from Spotify outdoor and I hope pure music mode on X5iii to come back with a later firmware upgrade, perhaps with a cleaner tuning for indoor listening.
You will hear more power and resolution in the mids and treble with the M11 compared to the M9 on both 2.5mm and 3.5mm outputs. There is also more texture and presence in the vocals. With a more open sounding performance, the treble sounds more natural on the M11 compared to the M9’s harder-edged sound.
Both devices have a slow decay and a soft punch in the bass, which fits slow-paced and relaxing music such as acoustic guitar solos. However, both may sound congested with faster electronic music or rock, especially with dynamic IEMs.
There are better dynamics on the M11 and you will hear more treble detail. Instrumental separation is obviously better on the M11 as well. Comparatively, the M9 is less aggressive in its low-end and the output is weaker so it may struggle to power gear that the M11 has no issues with.
The M11’s output sounds much more refined and dynamic than the FiiO M6’s benefitting from a stronger output power in both balanced and unbalanced formats.
The M11 is definitely more resolving especially in the treble and you will hear a lot more micro-detail and imaging cues with most pairings compared to the M6’s performance.
With a huge 17:9 screen, the FiiO M11 is ideal for movies and minigames. The hardware lets you multitask and the sound is more than satisfactory outdoor with a hint of warmth in the tuning. The X5iii has impressed me with its design back in 2017, however, the M11 is a more complete experience. If only it had Google Play support it would be even more fun. For now, apps like Pure APK will suffice.
The M11 is not the best sounding DAP out there but the comfortable tuning with fantastic hardware performance makes this DAP an excellent multimedia player and streaming machine.
If you are looking for a music player with the best UI response and connectivity for your balanced earphones and wireless devices, I don’t think anything comes close to M11 at this price!